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Amazon’s climate ambitions and PAC contributions at odds

caption: Jeff Bezos looks up at the Canyon Living Wall on Monday, January 29, 2018, during the grand opening of Amazon's spheres in Seattle.
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Jeff Bezos looks up at the Canyon Living Wall on Monday, January 29, 2018, during the grand opening of Amazon's spheres in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

After years of criticism, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has put forward several high-profile initiatives for his company around climate change. This includes a company plan to reach zero emissions by the year 2040, and to set aside $10 billion dollars for the Bezos Earth Fund.

But during this election cycle, Amazon's PAC has given money to a number of Republican senators who aren't so climate-friendly. They include Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and several others.

Corbin Hiar is a reporter for E&E News, a news organization based in Washington, D.C. that covers energy and the environment.

He told me about Amazon's political spending.

Since 2019, which roughly coincides with when the company began getting more serious about its own climate impacts, the company has given 70% of its money at the Senate level to Republican incumbents.

The money has gone towards Republican candidates and leadership PACs, which are affiliated political action committees that they can use to raise money, and support other candidates, and help them out, especially if they're in a tough re-election race.

I would say one of the most surprising examples that we found was $7,500 that the company gave to Senator James Inhofe. The Oklahoma Republican is famous for his 2012 book describing climate change as the greatest hoax.

He also brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to dispute the global annual temperature record. Inhofe serves as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, which is of great interest to Amazon.

In reporting this story, I made sure to reach out to Amazon and ask them about the timing and purpose for these contributions. They didn't directly address any of those questions, but gave me a more general statement saying they give with the interests of their employees, their customers, and business in mind, and the people that they give to they don't necessarily agree with on 100% of the issues.

They also emphasize that they think that climate change is real and serious and needs a response from both the public and private sectors.

I thought it was very interesting, because by giving to these vulnerable incumbents, whose races are going to determine the fate of the Senate, they are potentially making it more difficult for there to be a federal public response to climate change.

Amazon is not the only company that has pledged to eliminate its carbon footprint, that is also taking steps to support Republican incumbents who would make it harder for a federal response to climate change.

For example, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have all donated to Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado who's facing a very tough re-election battle, the outcome of which could determine the control of the Senate.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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